© 2015 Association of Applied Biologists. Over exploitation of groundwater and decreasing canal water resources are threating the productivity of conventional rice production systems in Asia which is the main rice bowl. Therefore, strategies are needed to produce more rice with less water in the shortest possible duration without compromising the yield to feed the increasing world population. Panicle sterility is one of the major obstacles in wide-scale adoption of water-saving rice production systems. Boron (B) deficiency, in water-saving rice production systems, has been identified as a possible reason for panicle sterility. This 2-year field study was aimed to investigate the potential of pre-optimised boron application through various methods in improving the productivity of short-duration basmati rice (Shaheen Basmati) in water-saving production systems, as delivered through seed priming (0.1 mM boron), foliar spray (200 mM boron) or soil application (1 kg boron ha-1), while hydropriming and no boron application were taken as control. Boron nutrition, by either way, improved the growth, water relations, morphology, yield-related traits, panicle fertility, grain yield, grain quality and grain boron contents of short-duration basmati rice; nonetheless, boron application as seed priming was superior and cost effective with maximum marginal rate of return. In conclusion, boron nutrition through seed priming is cost effective and may help improving the productivity, quality, and boron grain contents in short-duration basmati rice under water-saving production systems.